Friday, January 14, 2011
The day Nicole left was the first time since all of this had occurred that I had to spend a fair chunk of the day by myself and I was quickly restless. As the old phrase goes, you can’t keep a good man down and it was going to be hard to keep me down too (actually, the comment my wife made that I really liked was that only the good die young so there was no way that this tumor was killing me).
Anyway, it took no more than a couple of hours of sitting around before that got old. I called every doctor I had seen in the hospital trying to get an appointment because my job required me to be cleared to be able to return to work. The frustrations were chin deep quickly. The doctor who had seen me was not a hospital doctor and I had been out for more than just a week so he couldn’t see me. The neurosurgeon didn’t have an appointment until January, the neurologist till mid-December plus the biopsy results weren’t in yet. At the hospital I got transferred multiple times to where no one was willing to help. I told them all I’m not wanting results, I just want clearance to return to work. I could handle sitting in my office since I’d ran 13 and 14 mile runs since being release. In the midst of the frustration, I recalled that an attorney friend had said, I do this kind of law and feel free to drop my name. After almost two hours of being on the phone with no progress, I remembered this and asked someone to call me back with when I could talk to a doctor within 15 minutes or they’d get a call from my lawyer in twenty. Five minutes later somehow there had been an opening in one of my doctor’s schedules for the following Monday. One of the nurses was very kind and said ‘Sorry that it’s been a hassle but honestly, I’m not sure anyone has ever tried so hard to get back to work so quickly after a brain biopsy.’
Luckily, that same day, there was a balance to that level of difficulty. My wife had previously worked at the daycare my daughter went to. It was her compromise between staying at home and being a stay at home. Among the several children she had taken care of there one of them was Andy Stewart’s. He was a guy who had been in the business of selling brain surgery equipment for a couple of decades. It was interesting the way our families had overlapped. My wife had taken care of his daughter and thanks to his wife I’d joined the Ship of Fools, the running group that was constantly becoming a bigger highlight of my life. He called me and said he wanted to sit and talk with me about the equipment and the Livestrong Foundation. Still not cleared to drive, I asked if he would come to the house and then take me to the running group after. I figured he’d come about half an hour before but he proposed a full two hours before!
Andy came over and he spent more time explaining things than anyone else had at that point or since then. The doctors at the hospital had said that they would be putting in a needle the size of an angel hair pasta in my brain, he showed me the actual type of needle they used. He showed me new technologies and approaches, talked about various facilities. He talked to me about the Livestrong foundation and said that he was good friends with Doug Ulman, the CEO and that they would take excellent care of me. I spoke with them within a few minutes of him being there and the foundation stated that they would send out some info and could possibly recommend doctors. Nicole’s remark about my casual attitude had started to shift and I was ready to start digesting more information, trying to figure out how to be proactive about what the best path to this thing was. He drove me to my running group and despite the fact that I had a race two days later, the Turkey Trot, I felt extra motivated and somehow found a way to come in first despite the fact that the fast guys were there.
The Livestrong Foundation had stated they would send some information out to me. I figured with the Thanksgiving holiday being two days away that I would get it the next week. It was Fed Ex-ed and waiting on my door step the next morning. The brochure had a whole lot of information about cancer in general and resources of every sort. The lady from Livestrong, Ashley Koenings, called to make sure I’d received it and offered even more resources, including one that I dismissed at the time, to talk to other cancer survivors. She was and is a lifeline, someone who quickly answers emails when I have a question. When she doesn’t know the answer, she says she’ll find out and always does. Best of all perhaps, she often sends random emails just to check how things are going. If the healthcare had half their customer care, there'd be a lot less complaining.. They were a non-profit and amazing. Mark Twain once said that ‘it is very wearing to be good.’ I don’t know if that’s true but Ashley and Andy were much better for the wear.